Five steps to an agile culture

Adopting an agile culture can streamline your transformation. Learn why.

We often hear how difficult an agile transformation is, and admittedly, there are challenges. Running a marathon is difficult too, yet hundreds of thousands of people do it every year, and while those runners will tell you it’s difficult, in the next breath they’ll tell you that in the end, it was worth it.

 

The good news is, you don’t have to be afraid of the transition. Companies like CA have created entire support structures to guide organizations through the agile process. We have dedicated agile coaches and consultants to lay out a blueprint for the transition, answer questions and help to remove any roadblocks.

 

Following are a series of steps designed to cultivate an agile ideology across your enterprise. While you may think you’ve already achieved this, the great majority of businesses actually still operate within a traditional organizational structure with strictly defined roles that rarely converge. And this is precisely what prevents businesses from putting customers at the center of everything they do.

 

Five steps toward achieving an agile ideology across the enterprise:

 

1. No more command and control

According to the experts at the Change Leaders Network, “Command and control as a change leadership style destroys virtually any chance of success in nine out of ten transformational change efforts.” In short, command and control:

  • Hampers employee engagement and commitment, and often promotes resistance
  • Reduces your ability to make the real-time course corrections 
  • Minimizes people issues like emotional reactions to change

 

The old-fashioned approach of barking orders and issuing edicts from the corner office is a recipe for failure in the millennial generation. In an agile company, everyone must have the responsibility to make decisions that best serve the customer.

 

2. Leave the big teams behind

According to business experts, smaller teams can deliver big benefits when it comes to project execution. With smaller teams:  

  •  Increased facetime between leaders and team members can drive focus and engagement
  • Greater awareness of circumstances and expectations leads to greater clarity and cohesion 
  • Increased interaction among members leads to increased collaboration 
  • Minimal administrative requirements boost potential work time

 

Whether it be salespeople or software developers, an agile company leverages the collective power of small, nimble teams, each one responsible for delivering a set of well-defined, customer-focused results.

 

3. Open up your thinking to delegate responsibility

Customers should be at the heart of virtually everything your organization does. Their demands and desires dictate what you produce. No matter how engaged the senior management team is with customers, it will need to recognize that it doesn’t have all the answers. Decision-making power must therefore be delegated to those on the front lines, closest to customers.

 

This process typically results in higher-quality releases and more valuable feedback that helps to drive product direction and future enhancements. At the same time, newly delegated decision-makers are inspired to build tighter bonds with customers. It’s a win-win scenario.

 

4. Provide supportive leadership

Allowing others to make decisions tends to make traditional leaders nervous: what, they may wonder, are they there for? This is where the term “servant leadership” comes in. Simply put, a key goal of business owners and executives is to diligently work to support managers and front-line staff.

 

Make sure, however, that someone has a detailed overview of the activities occurring within the project at every level, and ensure that person is available to provide strategic guidance as necessary.  

 

5. Destroy knowledge silos; build information bridges

Traditional organizations have a habit of keeping knowledge in silos. That’s incompatible with agile, where everyone who needs access to information to get the job can get it. Moving to agile means each silo will still exist but there’s a common ground – the project team – that’s able to easily and efficiently draw expertise from all areas.

 

This doesn’t mean you should fling open the doors to all company knowledge. Some information is too sensitive to be shared widely. And inundating employees with data can be overwhelming and create unnecessary confusion. Strive to make the right information available in a timely manner.

 

While there are no set step-by-step instructions for becoming an agile company, those outlined above will put you well on your way to achieving an agile culture. Always keep in mind that a key point is to move from traditional thinking, which puts the customer on the outside, to an agile approach where the customer is the central force in the model, actively engaged in the development of new products.

 

Agile transformation can be challenging. Coaches and consultants can help you navigate the agile journey to overcome process and cultural challenges. Join us for a virtual discussion to get some of your toughest questions about agile answered by a veteran agile transformation expert.  Visit “Ask an Agile Coach” now to learn how you can speak to and agile coach. 


Marla Schimke
As the Head of Product Marketing for Agile Central at CA Technologies, Marla brings more…

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